Thursday, June 12, 2008

Uganda Trip - Thoughts and Questions Raised

Going to Uganda certainly caused me to think and evaluate my Christian walk at home and how I can better serve. Some of the questions I am considering are:

1. How can I be involved in vocational ministry as a police officer? The point of our conference was to communicate from the Bible how to use your career as a way of serving the Lord. Clearly as a police officer I am involved in the pursuit of justice, but how can I better use that pursuit of justice to serve Christ.

2. How can I (and my family) be involved in mercy ministry at home? America does not have the numbers of widows and orphans that Africa has, but by no means are they they only ones who are in need of mercy stateside. It is very easy to be involved in church activities, yet never actually be of service to Christ. As one member of our team said, "If hear about another Ladies' Tea I could scream!" Obviously fellowship and spending time with other believers is important, but how is our service?

3. How can our family better practice biblical hospitality? The Hurley's are tremendous example of hospitality, taking people into their home, feeding them meals, and eventually sharing the gospel with them. Its easy for me to look at our home as just that, our home. When one of our team asked Danielle Hurley how she is able to have so many people staying in and visiting the home, her reply was its easy when you look at it as God's home we are staying in, rather than our home. 

One of the lessons learned of course is to be thankful for the many blessings God has given me here, a home, health as well as good medical care, good traffic (you read that right!), as well as freedom. Of course with all of that comes a ton of responsibility. Am I properly using all these blessings to the Lord's benefit instead of mine?

Many of you who read this have gone overseas at some point (or know someone who did.) Feel free to post what your thoughts were upon returning home and what you have done to change your way of living upon coming back.

My Uganda Trip - Part 4

Sunday morning we had the opportunity to worship in the church service which takes place in the Hurley's home. Following a time of worship and taking communion, Shannon preached a message he has titled, "The Kingly Reign of God." After demonstrating from Scripture God's right to reign, he asked the question, how can God rule over our lives today? One of the key answers to this question was of course meditating on the Word of God day and night. He also made a point that reading and studying Christian books is not the same as meditating and studying the Bible. While books are a great tool for understanding the Bible and for gaining new knowledge, if we truly believe the promises of 2 Timothy 3.16-17, then our emphasis needs to be on knowing the Bible.

Monday was our final day in Uganda, waking up to an awesome thunderstorm. In the morning, we visited the International Justice Mission in Kampala. The Uganda  director, Ali McKinney, and one of their lawyers, Daniel Kajubi, had been speakers at the UCU conference. IJM is a Christian organization that advocates on behalf of widows, orphans, and other victims of injustice who either have been denied legal recourse, or are unaware of how they have been wronged. Ali shared with us that the main focus of IJM in Uganda right now is property-grabbing from widows. While property owned by a couple should go to the wife upon the death of her husband, often the husband's family or another relative will come in and make a claim on the property, including the use of forged documents, etc. IJM has a team of investigators, one of whom is a retired 17 year veteran of the Ugandan Police, who look into these crimes and then work alongside the police in helping the investigation. IJM's lawyers, all of whom are Ugandan, then assist in the court-related issues. I learned that the cooperation between IJM and the police has worked so well that many of the stations have even put in an IJM desk for the investigators when they are there working.

The day rounded out with a trip to the Bugandan Palace. Buganda is the largest of the Ugandan tribes and the king's palace is located in Kampala. On the palace grounds is a tunnel that was used by Idi Amin as a prison chamber. The tunnel had rooms off to the side and then would be filled with water once prisoners were inside. Electrical wires would then be placed in the water and should any of the prisoners try to escape, they could be electrocuted. Some of Amin's prisoners would have included Christians and potential political opposition.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Uganda Trip - Part 3

Saturday May 31st involved a drive to Jinga, Uganda. Jinga is known as the starting point of the Nile River as it begins its flow from Lake Victoria there. Our first stop was to the Amani Baby Cottage. Mark and Lisa Tatlock have adopted two kids out of there. It was both joyful and sad the hour we spent there. Needless to say the kids loved the attention our staff team and the college student team brought! One little guy, a one-year old (as of June 4) named Matthew particularly caught my attention. I was sitting and watching them eat snack and then picked him up after he was changed. After carrying him around a few minutes I went to put him down so he could crawl outside with the rest of his age group. Matthew however wanted nothing to do with it and grabbed onto me with all of his might. After a while it was time to go and when I gave him back to the orphanage "Mama" he again tried to hold on as long as he could and started crying when she finally took him. I later learned that Matthew is HIV positive as are many of the orphans in Africa. Even many of the orphans who are not HIV positive, are orphans because their parents died from HIV/AIDS. While medication for HIV is to the point that many of these children will be able to live relatively normal lives, its especially heartbreaking to see how that disease has affected so many people in Uganda and throughout Africa. What a joy it was though to see a Christian based orphanage that cares for more than just the orphans physical needs and for us to be able to bring them some joy, if only for an hour or so. As we got back onto the bus, it was gut-wrenching to see many of the kids run to the fence and wave goodbye to us.

After leaving Amani, we went to Nile Baptist Church and met Pastor Alfred Adundo. Interesting story about Alfred. When Mark Tatlock (who is a senior Vice President at TMC) was in Jinja for the adoption of his kids, he was looking for a church to worship in on a Sunday. Not knowing a thing about Nile Baptist, he walked in and heard Pastor Alfred preaching the Word. Afterward, while talking with Alfred, he saw Alfred had a MacArthur Study Bible and learned Alfred had won it an African Pastor's Conference. This led Alfred to ask Mark if he knew John MacArthur and if he was still alive! Mark of course responded that MacArthur was alive and well, and not only did he know him, he worked for him! On this visit, Mark was able to bring him a letter from MacArthur as well as a box of books from him.

Nile Baptist is a church on the receiving end of Compassion International money that sponsors individual children in Africa. If you ever worry about that money getting to the kids, no need to here. The church has meticulous records where each cent is directed. Alfred and his church have a tremendous ministry to the orphans and needy families in Jinja. Beyond the Compassion ministry though, they also started their own outreach in the slums east of Jinja, called the Macedonian Child Outreach Program. Many of the kids in these slums are refugees of the civil war in northern Uganda and their fathers are either out of the picture or unemployed. Their mothers frequently find work illegally making alcohol from the residue of sugar cane, earning the equivalent of $0.03 a day. The church has confronted this problem by starting an educational program in which the children are taught the gospel. We got to visit this slum and the kids in the program performed their songs they were learning in which they memorized significant amounts of Scripture and clearly understood the meaning of the gospel. It was an enjoyable experience to spend a couple of hours with the kids there who apart from Christ have no hope.

The slums are just one part of Nile Baptist's outreach ministry. After leaving the slums, we went to one of the main Ugandan prisons where one of Alfred's associates has begun a prison ministry. We had the opportunity to go into both the women prisoner's chapel and the main courtyard of the men's prison where Ugandan prisoners led worship and then Mark preached from Acts 16. Afterward, many of the prisoners came up to us and thanked us for coming. I have to admit, being a police officer, it was little awkward being in the middle of a prison yard and speaking freely with the prisoners. While Mark was preaching, it was exciting to see so many of the prisoners had their Bibles out and were taking notes on whatever little bit of paper they had. It was something many church going people stateside need to see.

The day in Jinja concluded with a trip to the source of the Nile. At the water's edge you can walk out on these two foot wide planks that extend out to jetties placed in the river every 15' or so. It's a little hairy because the current is pretty strong, and while swimmable, its not the most healthy water you would want to fall into. It was a beautiful sight though to be standing in the middle of one of the wonders of God's creation as the sun was emerging from behind clouds. I hope I can show many of you my pictures of this sight.

Our ride back to Mukono was tempered by the traffic accident scene we witnessed. A taxi bus, similar to the one we were in, had collided with a boda boda (a moped) and 14 had died in the collision. Police were on scene but it was more a recovery effort than a rescue effort. The scene provided a forceful reminder of the great need for salvation, both in Africa and America.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Uganda Trip - Part 2

Following the conference, which took place last Tueday and Wednesday, we took the day on Thursday to travel out to Luwero, Uganda. The Luwero District is where Shannon and Danielle Hurley, missionaries from Grace Community Church who are also supported by our church at Placerita Baptist, are going to be moving to in the next year. Shannon recently purchased property in Luwero, which is about 70 miles from where they currently based in Mukono, so they can better reach and disciple the impoverished people living in the "bush." While we were out there we saw numerous Ugandan homes which were really red brick made from the ground with thached roofs. Income there is non-existent as is education. Agriculture provides the only means to survive.

Shannon shared with us his plans for ministry in Luwero. He had George Crawford read Hebrews 11, the "Hall of Faith chapter", and described how his ministry there will truly be a ministry of faith. The Hurley's will be building a home there from the ground up, as well as a small school and a church. Shannon's plans are to help the poor Ugandans of Luwero by educating them and providing a home for the many orphans there. In turn, he will bring the Gospel to them and train up leaders who will start churches.

Following our time in Luwero we traveled to the west side of Kampala, the capital, where we toured the Watoto Village. Watoto is an orphanage started by Kampala Pentecostal Church. Instead of making the orphanage an institution, Watoto brings in widows and places them over "homes" in the village. These "homes" of course are populated with 8-10 orphans. While nothing is as good as a family setting, this model mirrors a family as close as possible for these widows and orphans. Each "home" is sponsored by a church, usually costing somewhere around $30,000 I believe, so each dorm in the village is sponsored by a church, primarily in the United States. There are also medical facilities, a school, and a church on the Watoto grounds.

While not a day spent in "active" ministry, it was a special time of seeing how the Lord is working in Uganda to bring the gospel and show mercy to widows and orphans.

Friday we spent in the places of government in Kampala. We met with a high court judge who is a believer. He explained how the justice system works in Uganda and he spoke on the types of cases he hears, specifically dealing with financial mismanagement and fraud, especially with government contracts.

We also toured the Parliament building, including the actual floor of Parliament as well as the VIP waiting chambers where visiting heads of state would come when visiting Parliament. During our visit with met with MP (member of Parliament) Otto Odonga (actually in Uganda names are written last then first so I should write MP Odonga Otto.) Otto is a member of the opposition party and is also pursuing his law degree at Uganda Christian University. During our visit he told us how he had brought forth evidence of bribery within Parliament but was forced to go to a committee to prove his allegations or be disciplined by the Parliament. The opposition parties main issue with the governing party is that the constitution keeps getting changed to allow President Museveni to remain in power. Originally it was to be only two terms, but was changed so he could run again recently. Uganda is just in the early stages of a two-party system. In fact, their constitution is only 12 years old so you can imagine the growing pains their democratic government is going through after years of harsh dictators such as Idi Amin and the overall lack of freedom.

Friday night we had the opportunity to attend the opening night of the Passion Conference Kampala. Passion is a ministry by Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin directed toward college-age students. It has been based strictly stateside before, but this year is traveling to many parts of the world. While Christina and I own some of Chris Tomlin's music, neither of us had seen him perform live or Matt Redman, who was also at Passion. Its kind of ironic the first time was in Kampala, Uganda. At the conference our team also met with Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, who was speaking at the conference. Though Francis is a fellow alum of Master's and pastors nearby, I had never met him. Again, kind of ironic. It made for a great night though to sing praises with Chris and Matt and hear Louie Giglio challenge the Ugandan crowd to follow God and believe in the Gospel.

Please check back later and I'll wrap up the wonderful time spent on the Uganda trip.

My Uganda Trip - Part 1

Well you can see by checking my posts that it has been a significant amount of time since I last posted. I think though the Uganda trip provides me good motivation to get back in a habit of posting.

Tuesday afternoon I returned from an eleven day trip to Uganda. The main purpose in going was to be part of a conference at Uganda Christian University which was led mainly by faculty from both UCU and The Master's College. This two-day conference was titled "God, Law, and Justice" and was directed toward law students at the university (the second largest university in Uganda) but there were also some outside attenders, including a member of the Ugandan Parliament.

Some of the speakers at the conference included Vice-Chancellor of UCU (equivalent of the President) Stephen Noll, Dr. John Stead, Dr. Mark Tatlock, Dr. George Crawford, Josh Mack, as well as members of UCU's Law and Theology Departments. Particularly powerful was UCU's Dean of Law, George Kasozi who spoke on religious persecution and the legal perspective. Kasozi speaks with authority since in the late seventies he was imprisoned by Idi Amin and was set to be executed for his faith when the Lord spared his life at that time when the man who was to oversee his execution was involved in a car accident on the way to where he was imprisoned! Overall, the purpose of the conference was to communicate ways your chosen vocation can be used for effective ministry. 

My small contribution was a seminar titled "A Biblical Perspective on Law Enforcement." While many of those attending the conference are headed into careers as lawyers, many will also be the future leaders of Uganda. The main theme I hoped to communicate was you can have the most honorable and ethical national/district government, but if your police force is dishonorable and unethical, justice is not properly meted out. Further, I hoped to communicate from God's Word the picture of a godly police officer. Following the seminars we took questions from the audience and some of the questions I dealt with included how it was possible to trust the police, was justice at the enforcement level even possible, and what do you do if your leaders give you an order that violates the law? Those issues, as well as issues of bribery and payment for services are issues that face Ugandans in their relations with their police force. 

The highlight of the conference was at the conclusion of the second day. A young man who is a fourth-year law student (final year) approached one of his professors, Daniel Kajubi, (who is also a lawyer for the International Justice Mission) and told him he was convicted of his sin from all the teaching, realized he was unsaved, and asked Daniel how he could be saved. Daniel then had the opportunity to take this young man outside and lead him to the Lord. Please pray for this young man that he will continue to grow in godliness.

The conference was a tremendous two days of teaching from God's Word. I was truly humbled speaking with such great men of the faith as Kasozi, Stead, and Tatlock. 

Tomorrow I'll attempt to update the next couple of days of our whirlwind trip to Africa.